It’s a sentence that’s enough to send a shiver down the spine of any Star Wars fan, and not in a good way: “Somehow, Palpatine returned”. That’s the grand explanation behind how the iconic villain made his comeback in The Rise of Skywalker, and sums up the approach to the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga pretty neatly.
Having seen The Last Jedi split opinion right down the middle and divide the fanbase, Disney and Lucasfilm hastily set about to try and right the ship in time for the finale. Colin Trevorrow was ousted from the director’s chair, and J.J. Abrams was brought in to provide a safe and reliable pair of hands, jettisoning the original script in the process.
It speaks volumes to the way The Rise of Skywalker was cobbled together that canonical comic books and novelizations have sought to fill in the myriad of plot holes, with the decision to resurrect the Emperor boiling a nine-film series that spanned 42 years into a straightforward generational conflict between the Skywalkers and the Palpatines, which only made the universe feel a whole lot smaller.
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Lucasfilm Story Group member Emily Shkoukani has now filled in some of the gaps, but for some people it’s far too little too late. As it goes, Palpatine was worried about death and wanted to escape mortality, so he created the Contingency, a chain reaction of events that would happen in the event of his demise and culminate with his resurrection on Exegol and the launch of the Final Order.
When he initially died, his consciousness was transferred to a succession of clones, one of whom went on to have a daughter that eventually led to Rey, while another yielded Supreme Leader Snoke. Once he discovered Rey’s Force sensitivity, he made it his mission to lure in his granddaughter and try to position her as his heir. That’s convoluted to say the least, not to mention two and a half years later than Star Wars fans wanted their questions answered.